May 11, 2013 by John Lyman
“We have been very clear to the Assad regime…that a red line for us is we start seeing a whole bunch of chemical weapons moving around or being utilized. That would change my calculus.”
– President Barack Obama, August 20, 2012
There is mounting evidence that Bashar al-Assad’s regime has deployed a limited amount of chemical agents against the rebels who are trying to depose the beleaguered Syrian president. Israel, the UK and now the U.S. intelligence community have asserted that Assad has used chemical weapons against Syrian insurgents.
In a letter to U.S. lawmakers, the White House notes, “Our intelligence community does assess with varying degrees of confidence that the Syrian regime has used chemical weapons on a small scale in Syria, specifically the chemical agent sarin.” Hawkish US lawmakers jumped at the White House’s statement that Obama’s “red line” had indeed been crossed and that a more robust policy must be implemented. The inherent dilemma faced by conservative lawmakers is that public support for U.S. involvement hovers around 20 percent, so they have been noticeably vague about what that involvement entails.
Rep. Mike Rogers (R-MI), the chair of the House Intelligence Committee said on ABC’s “This Week” that “some action needs to be taken” against Assad’s government for its alleged deployment of chemical weapons. Rogers emphasized, the Obama administration’s red line “can’t be a dotted line.”
May 11, 2013 by Madeleine Conley
To what extent should a country preserve the rights of its citizens abroad who plan attacks against it? This question led some to protest the targeted killing of Anwar al-Awlaki in 2011, an American citizen and high-ranking al-Qaida member. Writing in the Daily News in 2011, Ron Paul, former Texas congressman and former presidential candidate, argued shortly after a drone strike killed the al-Qaeda leader, “Awlaki was a U.S. citizen. Under our Constitution, American citizens, even those living abroad, must be charged with a crime before being sentenced. As President, I would have arrested Awlaki, brought him to the U.S., tried him and pushed for the stiffest punishment allowed by law. Treason has historically been judged to be the worst of crimes, deserving of the harshest sentencing. But what I would not do as President is what Obama has done and continues to do in spectacular fashion: circumvent the rule of law.”
In dealing with terrorists linked to the September 11 attacks or involved in planning future attacks like al-Awlaki, the United States relies heavily on the Authorization for Use of Military Force (AUMF), a joint resolution passed by the U.S. Congress in 2001 following the September 11 attacks. Although the document addresses the country’s position regarding foreigners involved in terrorism, it lacks the procedure for dealing with Americans engaged in terrorism abroad. As a result, it is unclear whether the United States has an obligation to uphold certain guaranteed rights, specifically due process.
May 9, 2013 by Mitchell Bustillo
When thinking of U.S.-Cuba relations, the trade embargo, or el bloqueo, is first and foremost on people’s minds. In 2009, President Barack Obama eased the travel ban, allowing Cuban-Americans to travel freely to Cuba, and again in 2011, allowing students and religious missionaries to travel to Cuba, as recently demonstrated by American pop culture figures, Beyoncé and her husband Jay-Z. Despite a history of hostile transgressions, the U.S. is inconsistent with its implementation of the embargo, which sends mixed signals to Havana and displays our weak foreign policy regarding Cuba.
Undoubtedly, Cuba is capitalizing on this weakness by using the embargo as a scapegoat for all of its woes without any immediate fear of reinstated restrictions. Because the goal is to promote Cuban democracy and freedom through non-violent and non-invasive means while refraining from providing any support to the current oppressive Cuban government, the current legislation regarding the embargo and travel ban against Cuba needs to be modernized and strengthened. The need for an embargo has never been more important or potentially effective, even considering the current human rights and economic arguments against the embargo.
May 9, 2013 by Preston Weaver
While civil war rages in Syria, the US has taken almost no action in helping resolve the conflict aside from calls for Bashar Al-Assad to step down. As the death toll exceeds 60,000 and the possible use of chemical weaponry has come to light, it is time for the US to take decisive action. To combat this dictatorship, the United States should first focus on establishing close ties with the Free Syrian Army. The FSA is the main bastion of opposition to the Syrian government. However, its communication, leadership, and logistics are severely lacking. Providing humanitarian aid to this rebel group is welcome but is simply not enough.
Democrats and Republicans alike have pushed to have Syrian rebels supplied with U.S. weaponry, but president Obama refuses such actions, “One of the things we have to be on guard about, particularly when we start talking about arming opposition figures, is that we’re not indirectly putting arms in the hands of folks who would do Americans harm or do Israelis harm or otherwise engage in actions that are detrimental to our national security.”
May 2, 2013 by Binoy Kampmark
“I think at this point they feel their only way out of Guantánamo is in a coffin.”
– Pardiss Kebriaei, Attorney with Centre for Constitutional Rights, May 1, 2013
Guantánamo’s resplendent carceral facilities remain a classic example of double realities, the co-existence of totemic impulses and the reflex of taboo. On the one hand, it has become an institutional reminder of the extensive, vague and indefinite “war” on terror, a foolish, reactive statement to calamity. On the other, it has assumed the most negative connotations, a rebuke to law, extra-legal subversions and a mockery of the legal system. To close it, however, would be deemed a violation. To keep it open similarly remains a violation of principle.
The Obama administration promised to close it but caved in under pressure from Congress and pro-camp advocates. As with so many matters, the power of the budget spoke volumes. Furthermore, these detainees, kept wrongfully in many instances without a tissue of evidence against their name, might well have a crack at the United States once they leave. Ever was there a disgruntled person made a criminal by a prison. Governments from other countries similarly balked – why should they receive such damaged cargo?
April 24, 2013 by Conn M. Hallinan
In the current crisis on the Korean Peninsula the Obama administration is virtually repeating the 2004 Bush playbook, one that derailed a successful diplomatic agreement forged by the Clinton administration to prevent North Korea from acquiring nuclear weapons. While the acute tensions of the past month appear to be receding—all of the parties involved seem to be taking a step back— the problem is not going to disappear and, unless Washington and its allies re-examine their strategy, another crisis is certain to develop.
A little history.
In the spring of 1994, the Clinton administration came very close to a war with North Korea over Pyongyang’s threat to withdraw from the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, expel international inspectors, and extract plutonium from reactor fuel rods. Washington moved to beef up its military in South Korea, and, according to Fred Kaplan in the Washington Monthly, there were plans to bomb the Yongbyon reactor. Kaplan is Slate Magazine’s War Stories columnist and author of “The Insurgents: David Petraeus and the Plot to Change the American Way of War.”
April 20, 2013 by Peter Lee
Will President Obama become a late and unlikely convert to realpolitik and allow John Kerry to sacrifice America’s nuclear non-proliferation principles on the battered altar of North Korean diplomacy? And will the fearsome pivot to Asia turn into a dainty pirouette, an American pas de deux with China as the two great powers search for a way to dance around the North Korean nuclear problem?
Potentially, the North Korean nuclear crisis is a good thing for the US and South Korea–and perhaps even for China!—if President Obama is ready to bend on some cherished non-proliferation beliefs. That’s what the North Korean leadership is begging him to do, amid the nuclear uproar.
Obama’s Secretary of State, John Kerry, seems to be interested in getting, if not on the same page, in the same chapter with North Korea, and maybe pick up a geopolitical win (with Chinese acquiescence) similar to the successful effort to push Myanmar (Burma) out of its exclusive near-China orbit.
April 11, 2013 by John Price
President Obama’s plan to renew sanctions against Somalia to weaken Islamist militants would wrack the war-torn country’s economy just as an elected government is restoring stability for the first time in 22 years and as thousands of refugees are returning to their homeland. The sanctions, imposed in 2010, are scheduled to be lifted Friday. They prohibit charcoal exports a key source of funding for al-Shabab terrorists, whose grip on parts of Somalia has been loosened by U.N.-backed African Union forces.
Charcoal exports are also a basic economic resource that affects thousands of Somali villagers. In announcing to Congress his intention to extend sanctions for one year, Mr. Obama last week noted that his administration in January formally recognized Somalia’s new government, led by President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud. The U.S. action allows the resumption of full diplomatic relations with Somalia, as well as civilian and defensive military aid.
April 10, 2013 by Scott Firsing
It was a story that many people missed. United States president Barack Obama met with four African leaders in Washington in late March 2013: President Sall from Senegal, President Banda from Malawi, President Koroma from Sierra Leone, and Prime Minister Neves from Cape Verde.
A positive step in the right direction for America in Africa, but it is time for Obama to return the favor and once again set foot on the continent. It was announced late last year that Obama was planning a long overdue African tour sometime in 2013. As a specialist in US-Africa relations and an American living in Africa, I remember thinking simply “Amen!”
There are dozens of reasons why Obama needs to be “here,” but to only mention a few. Firstly, there has been a large amount of key personnel changes when it comes to American foreign policy and its African “leadership.” It would prove beneficial for these individuals to accompany Obama on Air Force One for the ride across of the Atlantic, which in turn would help smooth the transition.
March 15, 2013 by John Coggin
In the past month, the White House has conveyed mixed messages about the president’s position on nuclear energy. Once praised at the highest levels as part of a wise “all of the above” energy strategy, commercial nuclear power was omitted from the State of the Union. Meanwhile, the president’s choice for Secretary of Energy, Dr. Ernest Moniz, supports a nuclear renaissance in America. As the White House refines its message on climate change for this congressional session, it should push nuclear power to the fringes of its energy policy.
Civilian nuclear power in the United States faces a new cluster of dangers unique to the 21st century energy market. These risks to public safety, considered alongside economic costs and waste management issues, render nuclear power an option of last resource for solving the climate crisis.
First, the current U.S. fleet of nuclear plants is more vulnerable than ever before to cyber security threats. In the past decade, hackers have ritually mocked the U.S government and corporate standards for internet security. In 2011, hackers broke into the security division of EMC, an IT security firm used by the NSA, CIA, the Pentagon, the White House, and the Department of Homeland Security. The security firm called the attack “extremely sophisticated.”
March 11, 2013 by Franz-Stefan Gady
In the kaleidoscopic world of power politics in Asia, the United States’ pivot to that region may yield the unintentional consequences of fostering closer strategic ties between the two Asian giants – China and India – which could result in a strategic alliance ostensibly hostile to Western interests in the region.
Analysts will be quick to point out that the ‘all weather friendship’ between the two countries, has hit a natural ceiling due to the strategic competition between the (re)emerging powers. For example, China is deepening its ties with Pakistan militarily (both countries signed a military cooperation agreement in September 2012), provides nuclear support, and has finally taken over management of the port of Gwadar on Pakistan’s Makran coast. India on the other hand is trying to counter China’s influence in Asia by fostering closer ties with the countries of the Association of South East Asian Nations (ASEAN), especially in the field of naval cooperation, which adversely affects China’s position in the Indian Ocean and South China Sea. Both countries’ increasing energy demands also put the two giants on a collision course.
March 7, 2013 by Marshall Auerback
The lamentable state of American political parties has become common sport amongst the chattering classes in Washington and beyond, although one wonders whether this political dysfunction has really been such a bad thing when considering how united bipartisan “responsible” action always seems to result in yet more budget cuts. By virtue of the fact that Congress and the Obama Administration couldn’t agree on much for the past few years, America’s deficits got large enough to put a floor on demand. The transfer payments via the automatic stabilisers worked to stabilise private sector incomes and allowed a general, albeit tepid, recovery in the economy.
But since the beginning of the year, Democrats and Republicans have put aside a lot of their differences, and what has been the result? Well, first we got the deal to avert the so-called “fiscal cliff”, the upshot being tax increases (and not just on wealthy people, but via the regressive payroll tax hike) which took around .5% out of GDP. This despite the fact that the deficit as a percentage of GDP had already fallen from 10% to 7% – one of the fastest 3 year falls on record.
February 28, 2013 by Gibson Bateman
Soon another US-sponsored resolution on Sri Lanka will be tabled at the UN’s Human Rights Council (HRC). It’s very unlikely that the recent high-level US delegation that came to Sri Lanka would have announced that a procedural resolution would be backed if Washington wasn’t absolutely positive that it had the votes to get another resolution through the council. The votes for another resolution on Sri Lanka are there; that’s for sure.
India has already come out and announced that it too will support the resolution – taking a bit of drama out of the whole affair. But it’s also quite revealing because it shows how much the administration of President Mahinda Rajapaksa has overplayed its hand. Let us not forget that less than a year ago, Delhi was reminding people that it wouldn’t support any country-specific resolution at the HRC. Now it looks like Delhi will have supported two in a twelve-month span.
Along with the major international organizations like International Crisis Group (ICG) and Human Rights Watch (HRW), there are probably a few Western countries – though not necessarily the US – that are pushing for something stronger than the draft resolution in its current form. In spite the circumstances, the Government of Sri Lanka (GoSL) is still sticking with its (untrue) story – saying that they are doing all they can to implement the LLRC recommendations and comply with the previous HRC resolution. Unfortunately, the problems with the GoSL’s most recent progress report on the LLRC recommendations start on the first page of the first sentence.
February 27, 2013 by Ramzy Baroud
An Israeli-Turkish rapprochement is unmistakably underway, but unlike the heyday of their political alignment of the 1990’s, the revamped relationship is likely to be more guarded and will pose a greater challenge to Turkey rather than to Israel. Israeli media referenced a report by the Turkish newspaper Radikal with much interest, regarding secret talks between Turkey and Israel that could yield an Israeli apology for its army’s raid against the Turkish aid flotilla, the Mavi Marmara, which was on its way to Gaza in May 2010. The assault resulted in the death of 9 Turkish activists, including a US citizen.
The attack wrought a crisis unseen since the rise of the Turkish-Israeli alliance starting in 1984, followed by a full blown strategic partnership in 1996. But that crisis didn’t necessarily start at the Mavi Marmara deadly attack, or previous Israeli insults of Turkey. Nor did it begin with the Israeli so-called Operation Cast Lead against besieged Gaza in Dec 2008, which resulted in the death and wounding of thousands of Palestinians, mostly civilians.
According to the Radikal report (published in Feb 20 and cited by Israeli Haaretz two days later), Israel is willing to meet two of Turkey’s conditions for the resumption of full ties: an apology, and compensation to the families of the victims. “Turkey has also demanded Israel lift the siege,” on Gaza, Haaretz reported, citing Radikal, “but is prepared to drop that demand.”
February 10, 2013 by Timothy W. Coleman
International sanctions are often used as the stick component in a carrot and stick approach to resolve international diplomatic disputes, especially with non-compliant nation states that operate outside the normative behavioral standards. Iran has long flouted and disregarded international norms. In fact, it has come to relish its role as an uncooperative state, which views itself beyond reproach. Iran’s conduct, consequentially, has subjected it to increasing economic and military sanctions.
Sanctions against Iran were initiated under President Carter and have been in place since the late 1970s. Additional sanctions on economic and military assets continued under President Reagan, and saw an increase under President Bush as well as President Obama. All the while, Iran has still refused to cave into demands by the international community to change its malicious behavior or become transparent about it nuclear weapons development effort.